Review: Tim Burton’s Dumbo

dumboAmong the countless Disney animated films scheduled for cynical live action remakes — this year alone sees both Aladdin and The Lion King crowding cinema screens — the studio’s 78-year-old flying elephant tale is one of the few that’s arguably ripe for reinvention. Continue reading “Review: Tim Burton’s Dumbo

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A scar is born: Vox Lux

voxluxCast your mind back, if you dare, to the often-harrowing popular music landscape of 1999, for it’s now been 20 years since we bid farewell to the dying gasps of the last century. Slim Shady, “Mambo No. 5” and Smash Mouth’s future meme “All Star” mingled with pop punk, nu metal and other post-grunge horrors, as a generation of American man-children rose up to greet the new millennium with a regressive howl of baggy-shorted rage. In the charts, ex-Mouseketeer Britney Spears danced her way down a school corridor to rescue us with a hit that would define an incoming pop era, while in Columbine, two heavily armed teenage industrial-rock fans marched into their high school and murdered 12 of their peers, inaugurating the nation’s still-prevalent cycle of mass media–scrutinised school shootings. Continue reading “A scar is born: Vox Lux

Fake it so real: Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Colette

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“It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit,” goes Noël Coward’s famous line from his 1941 play, and later film, Blithe Spirit. In real life, it was a paradox that the publicly guarded, privately homosexual bon vivant knew all too well. Perhaps fittingly, Coward was one of the cultural luminaries whose personal letters were embellished by the American writer-turned-literary-fraud Lee Israel, who, for a brief period in the early 1990s, successfully passed off forgeries purporting to be the letters of such noted artists. Israel was also queer, and developed a knack for performing to, and duly subverting, society’s expectations. Continue reading “Fake it so real: Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Colette

The Windy City is wild and weighty in Widows

widowsBritish contemporary-artist-turned-feature-filmmaker Steve McQueen went all the way to the Oscar podium with 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, an austere, empathetic retelling of a grim episode in American race history, which collected him the trophy for Best Motion Picture. Validated by cinema’s most middlebrow accolade, what was a self-respecting, Turner Prize–winning art-school guy to do? At first glance, McQueen’s decision to take on the heist genre – an adaptation of a Lynda La Plante TV serial, at that – would seem like a sly subversion of the respectable career arc, an inclusive gesture toward the multiplex in the service of reaching the widest possible audience. Make no mistake, though: Widows intends to be every bit as important as McQueen’s previous work. But the film’s gallant play for genre thrills wed to wideranging social commentary proves trickier to execute than to imagine. Continue reading “The Windy City is wild and weighty in Widows

Bohemian Rhapsody: Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?

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Not too far into the slick new Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody – it isn’t a film of considered pauses, to say the least – the band find themselves embroiled in a dispute over which single to release from their 1975 album, A Night at the Opera. The group wants to go with their six-minute operatic epic, but the portly, Hawaiian shirt-clad label executive is adamant that it be “I’m in Love with My Car”. “That’s the kind of song teenagers can crank up the volume in the car and bang their heads to,” he says of the now relatively forgotten track. “‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ will never be that song.’” Continue reading Bohemian Rhapsody: Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?”

Edge of Tomorrow: On Tom Cruise and Mission: Impossible—Fallout

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An oft-relayed and perhaps apocryphal anecdote in entertainment circles involves Tom Cruise possessing the power to make whomever he’s speaking with feel like they’re the most important person in the universe, if only for an ephemeral, shining moment. It’s the kind of charisma that’s kept him improbably high on the star pecking order for decades; at this point he’s less a remnant of another era than a portent of some transcendent, posthuman future that only he can see. On screen, both as a star and producer, he’s lived out that mythically inclusive social skill: scores of performers have been invited to bathe in his star light, but Cruise is always the last man standing. “Why won’t you just die?!” his exasperated co-star, and current movie Superman, Henry Cavill, grumbles at Cruise in the new Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Oh Henry, you’ve so, so much to learn. Continue reading “Edge of Tomorrow: On Tom Cruise and Mission: Impossible—Fallout